So you’re moving to an unfamiliar area and you’ve found what you think might be your “dream home.” Beware: for some movers, falling in love with a house causes a sort of tunnel vision — all they can see is the house, but they pay no mind to the area around it. It’s not until they’ve already moved in that they realize the closest grocery store is ridiculously expensive or that parking is a nightmare. If you’ve put in the time looking for a home that meets all your requirements, you should put in the time looking for the right neighborhood, too. Here are the five biggest mistakes people make when moving to a new neighborhood, and tips for avoiding them.
Mistake #1: Making Assumptions
“It looks like a nice neighborhood, so there’s probably a low crime rate.” If anything like that has come out of your mouth since finding a home, it’s time to do your homework. Never make an assumption about your new neighborhood — especially a make-it-or-break-it assumption such as crime rates, tax rates, and education quality — without verifying with your real estate agent first. Carry around a notebook so that you can write down any questions that come to you while you’re thinking about the neighborhood, then sit down with your realtor to get the facts.
Mistake #2: Thinking in the Short-Term
Maybe you just got a divorce. Maybe you’re just attending school. It doesn’t matter how “short-term” your situation may seem, you should always treat it like a long-term one. The truth of the matter is, no one really knows what turns their lives will take, and therefore, they don’t know how long they’ll really be spending in a house. Do you really want to move to an urban neighborhood if there’s any chance you might have kids a few years down the line? Do you really want to be stuck in an area with bad access to public transportation if you don’t drive? Even if you’re planning on only staying in the house a year or two, it’s important to choose a neighborhood that you wouldn’t mind staying in for a few more, just in case it comes down to that.
Mistake #3: Underestimating the Commute
Bouncing off the last mistake, a lot of people think an hour commute isn’t that bad because they’re not thinking about what it will be like to do that every day. Sure, it’s a beautiful neighborhood, but how much will you really get to enjoy it if you’re spending ten hours on the road every week on top of your job? Or maybe being a mile and a half from the train station doesn’t seem like a big deal — but it sure will when a foot of snow comes. To really get an idea of what you’re working with, do a dry run of your commute during rush hour. This might change your mind.
Mistake #4: Not Understanding Neighborhood Culture
It’s important to know what you want out of a neighborhood. If you’re looking for good nightlife, you might want to visit some of the local bars and see how busy they get. If you want peace and quiet, it’s probably a good idea to knock on the neighbors’ doors and see what they’re like. There’s nothing worse than signing a year lease on a house, only to find out you can’t get to sleep because of the noise outside — or worse, to find out you’re bored out of your mind. Doing your research on the culture of the neighbors is especially important when perusing apartments for rent. You could end up being best friends with some people who live on your floor…or you could find out, to your dismay, that the walls are paper thin.